Essential Oils – How to Use Them Safely

Essential oils

Touted by everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Miranda Kerr, Essential oils have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, boost mood, promote sleep and ease headaches. They are also great for cleaning and odor-neutralizing, as well as being antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral.

Most importantly, they have a longer shelf life than dried herbs and spices. While cooking with essential oils can be a fun way to experiment, it is important to remember that safety must come first.

They’re distilled from plants

Essential oils are distilled from various parts of plants, including flowers, herbs and tall grasses. They are also found in the leaves, bark and seeds of some plants. They are known to have many healing properties. These include analgesic, antibacterial, anticataleptic, and antifungal properties.

The most common method for making essential oils is steam distillation. This involves passing hot steam through raw plant material (called a charge) to vaporize the volatile compounds. These vapors rise and enter a condenser unit where they are converted back into a liquid form.

Although there are no regulated standards for the production of essential oils, reputable companies will disclose the plant ingredient and its Latin name on the bottle. They will also provide a website and booklets that contain additional information about the oil. The best essential oil will be pure and free of any additives. Beware of companies that use terms such as “therapeutic grade” or “pure.” These are marketing strategies and do not reflect the quality of the product.

They’re safe to use

As long as recommended guidelines are followed, essential oils are very safe. They can be used in a variety of ways, including aromatically, topically or internally (via ingestion). Topical application is the most common way that people use essential oils.

However, the body’s skin is sensitive and can react negatively to certain oils, especially undiluted ones. Adding a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba, to an essential oil helps reduce this possibility. Likewise, only certain essential oils can be ingested without dilution and only under certain conditions, such as in tea or in food recipes.

It’s also important to choose a reputable oil producer. Look for one that uses transparent marketing terms, such as “therapeutic grade” or “pure,” and provides web pages, booklets or other information about the product. They may even disclose how the oil was harvested or produced. They should also be clear about any additions, such as vegetable oil, which can dilute the oil’s purity.

They’re not a cure-all

Although essential oils have become a trending topic on social media, they are not the cure-alls some people claim. In fact, they may even do more harm than good if misused. This is because they are not regulated pharmaceutical drugs and do not undergo the rigorous scientific testing of FDA-approved medications.

Essential oils are complex mixtures of aromatic compounds. They are extracted from plant material by steam or water distillation and cold pressing. They have distinct odors and poor solubility in water. This is why they must be diluted before applying them to the skin.

However, there is some research showing that some essential oils can help with certain symptoms, such as alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and treating headaches. In addition, many essential oils have antioxidant properties. These can protect your cells against damage caused by free radicals and extend your lifespan. However, more research is needed before you can use these natural remedies as substitutes for your prescriptions.

They’re not pure

Essential oils are potent and must be diluted with a carrier oil before use. They can burn your skin and are not suitable for undiluted ingestion. They can also break down in heat, so it’s important to keep them stored in dark glass bottles and out of direct sunlight.

Some unscrupulous companies have adulterated their oils by blending cheaper varieties of the same oil and labeling it as the more expensive one. It’s difficult to spot adulteration at home, but a professional analysis using techniques like GC-MS is the only way to ensure that an essential oil is pure.

Look for a supplier that sources organically and sustainably. Reputable aromatherapy companies will list the Latin name for each ingredient and include website pages, booklets or other materials describing how they harvest and produce their products. They’ll also choose glass bottles over plastic ones, as heat can break down plastic and taint the oils. The reputable suppliers will also be transparent about their ingredients and sources and will test for purity.